How To Match Your Enterprise Systems Design To Your Business Goals

It’s a familiar refrain — IT should serve business, not the other way around. How can you actually make that happen? These five simple hints should help.

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The opening presentation at the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit in London, which I’m covering as part of our ongoing World Of Servers series, examined how you could tie the design of enterprise architecture into specific business outcomes, rather than simply pursuing technology for its own sake. Here are the five key lessons everyone in IT management can draw from that experience.

Strive for simplicity “Enterprise architecture has got increasingly complex over the years,” said Gartner analyst Brian Burke. “We don’t need more complexity in enterprise architecture. What we need is a little bit of simplicity. Pick a few business outcomes, deal with them very pragmatically and deliver a result.”

Don’t rely excessively on frameworks Many enterprise architecture projects rely on specific frameworks. While having a general framework can be helpful, attempting to stick to them too rigorously can often be counter-productive.

“The problem we arrive at with frameworks is that they become so large and so complex and so difficult to complete it becomes difficult to demonstrate value in the short term,” Burke said. The potential solution? “Start with key focus on business outcomes, than narrow down the framework to focus on those business outcomes,” Burke said. “You need to optimise the framework for your specific needs. Successful businesses using enterprise architectures din’t open the book and start working; they start by planning first.”

Get management to specify what it wants Matching business needs means identifying what business needs are. “You have to understand what the goals are which the business has,” Gartner analyst Betsy Burton said.

That might seem obvious, but it can be a challenging task. “Senior executives hate to say what the business direction and strategy is,” Burton noted. “Do you want to know why? They’ll actually have to deliver. They’re also saying what they’re not doing.

Deliver, don’t deliberate Matching systems to business needs is a key step, but you also need to deliver information regularly. Burton advocates delivering frequently and refining rather than spending a long time piloting purely to ensure that data is 100 per cent accurate. “You don’t have to be right the first time,” she said. “It’s better to start delivering something thatcould be of value than spending time trying to work out the whole world.” Consistency of delivering matters as much as the accuracy of initial delivery.

Make signature-ready recommendations If you understand the overall business needs correctly, then you should be able to be prescriptive when it comes to actual technology. Consult on goals, but specify technologies in a ‘signature-ready’ format so your managers can sign off, rather than quibbling over details.

Lifehacker’s World Of Servers sees me travelling to conferences around Australia and around the globe in search of fresh insights into how server and infrastructure deployment is changing in the cloud era. This week, I’m in London for the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit, looking at how to plan and deploy your overall enterprise architecture for maximum business value and efficiency.

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